One grocery store chain's attempt to create a multi-flavored, limited-edition Easter treat has now become the center of a fiery Twitter debate on the intersection of political correctness and race.
Waitrose, a large U.K.-based chain of markets that sells gourmet items, released several spring-themed items for Easter this year. Among the Easter-spiced fudge, chocolate eggs, avocados, bunnies and chicks was a chocolate "Trio of Easter Ducklings."
The assorted ducklings appeared in milk chocolate (a light brown color), white chocolate (dyed a light yellow), and dark chocolate (a deep-brown decorated with pink splatters).
In March, one shopper observed that each of the ducklings had a particular attribute and a special name: the milk was labeled as "Crispy," the yellow was "Fluffy," and the dark chocolate duck was labeled as "Ugly."
"Crispy, Fluffy and Ugly - trio of Easter ducklings at #waitrose . Ugly is the dark one on the right. Overheard women saying “this is not right” , I agree, doesn’t look good at all," a person with the account name Livia A. Aliberti tweeted on March 7. "Thousands of other options... why #ugly?????"
Apparently, Aliberti wasn't the only person who thought the package labeling was off as the supermarket chain made a few modifications to the chocolate ducklings' packaging: Now, none of the ducks have a name. On April 9, Aliberti followed up with a post thanking Waitrose for making the switch.
"Ref[erence] to the 50s tale was a tad outdated. Thank you to those who contributed w comments : change happens when something is brought out into the open and discussed," she wrote.
Although a Waitrose spokesperson told TODAY Food they couldn't confirm whether the dark chocolate duckling was a reference to the childhood story, "The Ugly Duckling," written by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen in 1844, many tweeters around the world drew that conclusion.
A small number of tweeters supported Aliberti, or at least noted the incorrect depiction of Andersen's original duckling that was bullied by the barnyard animals for being a "a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at," only to discover in the end he was a swan.
Many tweeters, however, said they believed inferring that a chocolate duckling was somehow racially insensitive was ridiculous.
Some people felt that pointing out the chocolate ducks in the first place detracted from more serious issues of societal racism.
Others said they felt that the tweeter took "The Ugly Duckling" wrongfully out of context.
And another tweeter equated "screaming racism" about a chocolate duck as akin to another old folklore story: "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."
"All I see is 3 chocolate ducks," one person said.
Waitrose, having been accused of selling items with sexist packaging in the past, issued an apology in a prepared statement: "We are very sorry for any upset caused by the name of this product, it was absolutely not our intention to cause any offence [sic]. We removed the product from sale several weeks ago while we changed the labelling and our ducklings are now back on sale."
Perhaps "The Ugly Duckling" himself can provide solace to all those who were offended: "He felt quite glad that he had come through so much trouble and misfortune, for now he had a fuller understanding of his own good fortune, and of beauty when he met with it."